There won’t be much to see here today except a varitable love fest for my darling puppy (who’s not a puppy any more). Two years ago on April 9, 2012, I met Kiva for the first time, which makes today our two-year anniversary.

I have a picture of our first meeting. They unloaded her from a van of six dogs, five of which went to my class companions. Kiva was the last one to be unloaded, and we met on neutral ground, in the lounge of the Oregon campus dorm. It was maybe 10 steps from my room. Walking there seemed to take forever, and when I got there, one of the instructors said, “Ok, we’re bringing in Kiva now. Um, so, she might be a little excited.”

During her “little excited” phase was when the director of the class snapped the picture, of my little labby exuberantly and unabashedly licking my face; me smiling and happy but also very taken aback. Somehow, I wasn’t prepared for this big bundle of joy who thought she was still little enough to crawl into my lap and cover me with kisses. Knowing what I know now, I should have made her sit right away; now, I would have known how to calm her, kindly but effectively. Then I didn’t know, and I had no idea what to do with the gift of Kiva. One of the first things my instructor told me, as Kiva pranced and panted and generally acted like a fool was, “She just doesn’t know what to do, so give her something to do. Tell her to sit.”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve relied on this advice over the last two years. When Kiva starts acting squirrely, I give her a task. As much as she loves to play, she loves to work, and I can see that. I’ve defended my choice to have a companion animal to countless (mostly) strangers on the street who have questioned the ethics of my having a dog who “works for me.” When Kiva has something to do, she’s happy, and I’m happy.

And that lesson works in my own life, too. When I am scattered, flitting around from idea to idea, disoriented and confused, I give myself something to do. I sit and be quiet. I make a cup of tea, and pay attention to its warmth and scent while it steeps, keeping my mind only on the task. I make risotto or something else that requires stirring and attention. I write. I think everyone could benefit from the “give yourself something to do” advice, so this entry is as much about the gratitude I still feel for my instructors and for the GDB staff as it is for Kiva.

It’s no giant leap to assume that Kiva has forever changed the pattern of my life. I understand the responsibility of having someone who depends on me for their livelihood. In turn, I give some of the responsibility of my livelihood back to her. We co-exist, we are interdependent on one another. She listens for my voice when she waits for me at pole, or while I run to the kitchen at work. I listen for her wagging tail and clacking toenails on my return. I wouldn’t be who I am without her. I don’t take that lightly.

One of the most challenging and rewarding things about having Kiva in my life is learning about trust. I struggled mightily at the beginning of our time together with trusting her. I was used to doing things my way, and I assumed that every time she stopped or tried to detour, she was distracted by a leaf or a dog or another human who had maybe just petted a dog. I learned through trial and error that mostly when she stops, it’s because there is a pole or a trash can or something else obstructing my path. There is a flight of stairs. There is a hybrid car, sleek and silent. Giving up a little bit of my control, and instead turning it into trust for Kiva to guide me safely, is what continues to strengthen our bond and what will strengthen it in the many years we have left.

I have no idea how to express my gratitude; pets and praise don’t seem enough, but somehow, for Kiva, they are. She loves them and treats each “good girl” like it’s the first time I’ve ever said it. In that way and many more, I aspire to be like her. I’m so excited for the many more adventures we have in store.

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4 thoughts on “Kiva-Versary, Year 2

  1. What a great description of Kiva, service dogs in general & the relationship that makes you both “more”.

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